Today! Join NASA, US Space Force fireside chat on the new space age

This morning at 8:30 am PT we are hosting a live, 30-minute FREE webinar called, Full Speed Ahead: Accelerating Government and Commercial Collaboration in the New Space Age.

Join experienced space leaders for this candid discussion and learn how government demands for mission success intersect with new capabilities from commercial companies. This event is free, but you must register to attend.

The conversation, moderated by Emily Calandrelli, an MIT-trained engineer and Emmy-nominated science TV host, features Steve Isakowitz, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation; Gen. David D. “DT” Thompson, the vice chief of space operations, United States Space Force; Mandy Vaughn, the CEO and founder of GXO, Inc.; and Alex MacDonald, chief economist at NASA.

The booming space industry is evolving and expanding at an unprecedented rate. It’s the most complex, costly sector, and the traditional boundaries between national security, civil and commercial space are changing rapidly to create new opportunities.

Topics on the table include:

  • Challenges to “evolving space at speed,” including key trends and drivers of change that are impacting missions and shaping this moment in space.
  • Current capability gaps surrounding specific applications, mission integration challenges and a robust workforce.
  • How to best leverage commercial capabilities at the national level to support enterprise mission success.
  • Opportunities for new space companies to partner and do business with government space programs.

Don’t miss this rare chance to gain a deeper understanding of partnering opportunities to unlock new era of human achievement in space.

Full Speed Ahead: Accelerating Government and Commercial Collaboration in the New Space Age takes place today from 8:30 am – 9:00 am (PT) / 11:30 am – 12:00 pm (ET). Register to attend today for 100% free.

NASA’s Kathy Lueders discusses the Artemis Moon landing 2024 target and team selection

NASA’s head of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders joined us on stage at TechCrunch Sessions: Space, where she spoke to scientist and Netflix host Emily Calandrelli about her work at the agency — including NASA’s progress on the Artemis program and the return of American astronauts to the surface of the moon.

The 2024 target for NASA’s first Artemis moon landing has been oft-repeated by the agency, and by current NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, who has confirmed that his tenure is ending in January once the Biden administration takes over the U.S. presidency. But it’s also a timeline that has raised many an eyebrow among outside observers, and seems particularly challenging given setbacks resulting from stay-at-home orders and remote-work measures implemented by NASA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we had Commercial Crew, my goal was 2017,” Lueders said. “We did not fly in 2017, even though we were working super, super hard to get to 2017. Having that 2017 goal didn’t mean that I made stupid decisions just to get to 2017 — I still carefully went through and made the decisions. And then we ended up flying in 2020 — in fact we ended up flying [the mission] in 2019, which originally would have been our 2017 goal. People get very fixated on 2024, because it is an important goal for us. But I also know that we’ll work through this carefully, and we will inform people of our progress along the way, just like we’ve done for every single other program out there. And we will fly when we’re ready to fly with the mission capability that we need to fly in a safe and effective manner.”

Lueders also addressed a question about diversity, and racial diversity in the agency, and its importance to the agency. Lueders is the first woman to ever occupy the role of the associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, who leads all human spaceflight activities across the agency.

“I want people to see themselves in what we’re doing, because the point of this is it’s not about NASA doing this anymore,” she said. “This is about you doing it, and about you being able to do it. I think one of the most striking things that I got was a letter from a nine-year-old girl in India right after I got announced. And she said, ‘Because you have your job, I think I can be NASA administrator someday.’ And you saw the diversity in that Artemis crew, and we want people to see themselves out there.”

Lueders also talked about the diversity present in the NASA Artemis astronaut class, which it just announced, and about the potential for who from that pool will be selected to actually crew the first lunar landing for Artemis.

“One of my favorite things is, I’m still not sure it can’t be two women,” she said. “We need to pick the right people.”

Netflix’s ‘Emily’s Wonder Lab’ is smart, interactive science TV for kids

Netflix’s children’s programming library continues to grow, and its latest is one of its best original offerings yet – Emily’s Wonder Lab, a TV series hosted by engineer, space expert and Emmy-nominated TV science host Emily Calandrelli. The new show’s first season of 10 episodes is now available to stream in its entirety, and each sub-15 minute episode focuses on STEAM topics and experiments that kids can do with their parents at home.

I spoke to Calandrelli (who, I should note, we were lucky enough to have as a past contributor at TechCrunch) about her new show. Wonder Lab is the realization of a show concept that she’s been pitching for years, and she explained why the time – and Netflix – was right for it to come to life now.

“I’ve been wanting to bring science to younger kids for a while now,” says Calendrelli, who has hosted Exploration Outer Space on Fox for older youth viewers for years. “Netflix recently said that they wanted to work with us, and we developed this concept together with Netflix. It’s all about me being myself – there’s no acting involved. This is me being myself, and kids being their curious selves, and and in each episode I do one larger-than-life experiment, and then one at home experiment for the viewers to be able to do with materials they have around their home.”

The episodes are short, but they pack in a lot of information – and even though it’s programming designed for pre-school aged kids, Emily’s Wonder Lab doesn’t talk down to kids like you might see in a lot of other programming aimed at the same demographic.

“We do not shy away from the science in the episode – I will always try to put in more science than mostTV Hollywood producers will allow,” Calandrelli explained. “Netflix was actually very, very cool with just being like, ‘Yeah, you can, you can talk about anything you want, go ahead.’ As long as we explain it in a way that you don’t need to understand anything coming in, and just explain it in a way that a kid would understand, it made it into the show. I was very thankful, because some of the feedback we had gotten in the past from other networks, who we pitched similar shows to, was that it was just too science-y for their audience – which is frustrating feedback to get when you think that we really need a lot more science appreciation in the next generation.”

Calandrelli also points out that though the timing was coincidental, the show is actually really great as a resource for people doing their best to keep their kids learning, and spending their time in creative pursuits. The show’s format is all about setting up an educational premise, and then providing all the guidance you need to perform an experiment at home that demonstrates the theory at work, using readily available household goods.

While the show came about in part because of Calandrelli’s work on Bill Nye’s Netflix original show Bill Nye Saves The World, Calandrelli says that one of the best parts of bringing it to life has been how open Netflix has been to working with her vision. That’s a markedly different experience from what she encountered when shopping earlier versions of the show around to other networks, she says.

“In previous pitch meetings with large science networks, I’ve often gotten the feedback that the people who watch science shows are predominantly male,” she told me. “So in these pitch meetings, the feedback I often get is, unfortunately, ‘Our audience is primarily male, and so they won’t be able to relate to a female host’ – that’s the reason that I’m given for why they don’t want my show. So to have a platform like Netflix be excited to have a female host a science show on their network really feels like a win.”